Co-Chairmen Raise Reservations about Turkey’s Willingness to Honor its Commitments
WASHINGTON–The Co-Chairmen of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, Representatives Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) today expressed their reservations regarding Turkey’s willingness to cooperate in the implementation of its agreements under a set of recently signed protocols on the normalization of Turkey-Armenia relations, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
In a public statement, the two legislators called into question several points related to the protocols, including Turkey’s pattern of using its ongoing dialogue with Armenia as a “stall tactic” to delay the lifting of its illegal 16-year blockade of Armenia. The Co-Chairman also noted their concern regarding Turkey’s efforts to impose preconditions, stressing that: “Normalization of relations should take place without preconditions.” In a clear rebuke to the “historical commission” long advanced by Turkey, they set forth their view that: “Any attempt to include a review of historical fact, such as the Armenian Genocide, or to include the ongoing Nagorno Karabakh peace process into these negotiations stands in direct opposition to the intent of these talks.”
The leaders of the Armenian Caucus closed their statement by expressing their hope that, “Turkey, by lifting its illegal blockade, will open the door to normalized relations between Yerevan and Ankara, and a new era of Armenia-Turkey relations based on truth, justice, peace and cooperation.”
Earlier this week, Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), the lead author of the Armenian Genocide Resolution, expressed “serious concerns about some provisions of the protocols,” stating that “In particular, I was deeply disappointed to see that the protocols call for the creation of an historical commission to review the events of 1915-23. This is a thoroughly discredited idea; there is no dispute among scholars that the Armenian people were the subject of genocide during the waning days of the Ottoman Empire and an historical commission is another effort to obfuscate the truth.”
Rep. Schiff went on to state that “True reconciliation between the Armenian and Turkish peoples will occur when Turkey acknowledges the genocide that was committed by the Ottoman Empire against Armenians from 1915 – 1923.”
On Tuesday, the ANCA circulated a memo to Members of Congress, noting that “among primary concerns is that Armenia, blockaded by Turkey and under intense economic and diplomatic pressure, was forced into accepting terms that threaten her interests, rights, safety, and future – very notably in the form of a proposed ‘historical commission.’” The memo went on to note that “This provision, a tactic long pursued by Ankara to cast doubt on the historical record of the Armenian Genocide, is intended to serve Turkey’s drive to roll back the growing tide of international recognition of this crime against humanity. There can be no enduring relationship between Armenia and Turkey that is not built upon the foundation of Turkey’s acceptance of a true and just resolution of this crime.”
Armenian Americans began expressing their concerns to Members of Congress through an ANCA WebFax campaign urging lawmakers to call for an investigation into State Department pressure on Armenia to agree to the inclusion of a ‘historical commission’ – an affront to descendants of Armenian Genocide victims and survivors around the world.
The complete text of the Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs statement is provided below:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACTS: Tali Israeli (Pallone) 202-225-4671
Aaron Winters (Kirk) 202-225-4835
LAWMAKERS ISSUE STATEMENT ON NORMALIZATION
OF RELATIONS BETWEEN ARMENIA AND TURKEY
Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Remain Concerned with Turkey’s Cooperation
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) and Mark Steven Kirk (R-IL), Co-Chairmen of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, released the following statement today regarding the recent development that Armenia and Turkey will renew their efforts to normalize relations.
Armenian and Turkish diplomats on Monday agreed upon two protocols, which establish the framework of talks aimed at a formal agreement on bilateral and diplomatic relations. A six-week deadline has been set for both the Turkish and Armenian governments to conclude consultations and for their respective parliaments to ratify the protocols. Once ratified, a two-month timetable has been set for the opening of the common border.
In addition, the protocols include a timetable for the establishment of an intergovernmental commission. The commission would provide an impartial scientific examination of the historical records and archives in order to define existing problems and formulate recommendations.
“As co-chairs of the Armenian Caucus, we support the aim of Monday’s development between Armenia and Turkey to move toward normalizing relations. We believe it is essential that the two countries do so without preconditions and in a timely manner.
“While we are optimistic that efforts are being renewed to lift the Turkish blockade and establish relations between the two countries, we remain concerned with Turkey’s willingness to cooperate in the matter.
On July 30, along with 80 Members of Congress, we sent a letter to President Obama expressing our concern that the Turkish government will once again stall progress on these efforts. Only weeks after announcing the historical agreement to work towards normalization with Armenia, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan steered his country away from the negotiations by placing preconditions on normalization. Once again, we fear that Turkey will use the recent developments as an excuse to continue stall tactics, which prevent a truthful working relationship between the two nations.
We are concerned with certain provisions of the protocols, which may include preconditions to opening the border between Armenia and Turkey. Normalization of relations should take place without preconditions. Any attempt to include a review of historical fact, such as the Armenian Genocide, or to include the ongoing Nagorno Karabakh peace process into these negotiations stands in direct opposition to the intent of these talks.
We remain hopeful that Turkey, by lifting its illegal blockade, will open the door to normalized relations between Yerevan and Ankara, and a new era of Armenia-Turkey relations based on truth, justice, peace and cooperation. By coming to terms with the past and reconciling any current conflicts, Turkey and Armenia will help bring more stability to a volatile and strategic region of the world.”